Saturday, December 5, 2009

Another corrupt Queensland police investigation

POLICE who investigated an alleged cover-up of child sexual abuse at a Queensland Catholic primary school had close ties with teachers and the principal. At least three police officers involved in the investigation last year of a teacher, later charged with the rape and abuse of 13 young girls, had children at the school or spouses on staff at the close-knit Toowoomba school, west of Brisbane.

Police previously said all officers with any involvement at the school were taken off the case at the start of the investigation.

The initial abuse complaint was made by a nine-year-old girl and her father to the school principal in September, 2007. Police were not told and the veteran teacher, 60, remained at the school for another 14 months, during which time he is alleged to have abused another 12 girls, resulting in him now facing 46 charges of rape and indecent treatment. He faces court next year. Police were belatedly alerted in November last year , but only when another child brought her allegations of abuse directly to them.

The Weekend Australian has learned that a detective who last year helped interview the alleged offender and later took the statement of the father -- who made the first abuse complaint to the principal -- is married to another teacher at the school and was treasurer of the parents and friends association that threw a farewell for the alleged pedophile, who retired briefly from the school before being rehired last year. The father told the detective he and his daughter had gone to the principal with abuse complaints about the teacher, involving herself and another girl, more than a year before before he was arrested. Under state law, schools and their governing bodies have a mandatory requirement to report to police any suspicions of sexual abuse by a staff member. Two other police involved in the investigation also had children at the school.

Police last night issued a statement saying they "hold no concerns whatsoever" of any possible conflict of interest among the investigators. But parents of the victims say they were assured by police there had been no prior suspicions about the teacher, who later confessed to some of the abuse.

In February, the state government ordered an investigation into the school because of a series of reports by The Weekend Australian revealing the inaction to the earlier abuse complaint to the principal. In May, the principal became the first person in Australia to be charged under the six-year-old mandatory reporting laws. But this week, he was acquitted after magistrate Haydn Stjernqvist found the principal had met his legal obligations by reporting the complaints to senior officers in Catholic Education.

Documents showed that after the parent's complaint -- coupled with staff allegations about the teacher giving out lollies and putting children on his lap -- the principal suspected he had sexually abused at least one student. Prosecutors accused the principal and Catholic Education of watering down the complaints before taking them to the teacher, who denied the allegations.


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